My review of Bee Dawson’s book ‘A History of Gardening in New Zealand’ is in this week’s Listener. Here are three extracts from it.
‘This is a delightful book – well-researched, well-written, magnificently illustrated and well-designed, but also immensely readable and entertaining.’
‘For me the text and images were a trip down memory lane. My elders kept talking about Buxton’s Christchurch nursery, which seemed a mythical place. I too dug for victory during the Second World War – a patriotic duty. I never hear of Irish Peach now, but we had a tree of this lovely early-ripening apple in my boyhood orchard. Bliss was the season’s first apples with a good book on the verandah. At Akaroa, hedges were full of ‘Bishop’s Rose’ originally brought there, so legend claimed, by Bishop Pompalier. When I got married, my mother gave me my own copy of Yates Garden Guide – a rite of passage. Others will bring their own memories as they read.’
‘[Speaking of changes in gardening practice Dawson says] “On the home front the ability to cook a good steak or turn a sausage replaced vegetable gardening as the way for the Kiwi male to provide for his family. If he could make a marinade as well he was a true hero.” That trend reflects changing lifestyles, as well as the tendency for paid work to encroach on the weekend. A smaller proportion of people than in the past actively work in their gardens. But as always, there are conflicts and compromises. The trend for low maintenance gardens clashes with the growing desire for organic food. However, Dawson ends hopefully, and that’s appropriate. Gardening as an enterprise, whether necessity or luxury, is based on hope. Seeds, plants and landscaping are hostages for the future.’